The text came just as I was leaving Room 36 to visit my new grandson—Lincoln David Bradley: Caitlin was dead, shot and killed right next to the Carriage Inn. 

Driving, fighting my emotions, I reflect on our relationship. I met her in a motel room along with two other females, all caught in addiction and the sex trade. 

Caitlin was pregnant and I asked about medical help. It seemed minimal. I left my card and told her to call, that help was available. With three kids already taken by the state, she wanted a different path.

One day, she called. High, distressed. Could I get her? I found her on a bench and sat down beside her; she curled into the fetal position, her head on my lap, and howled. Strung out, seven months pregnant, no one to turn to. She agreed that Diane could take her to Alternatives Pregnancy the next day and I promised a room for the night.  

The adventure continued. I walked with her to the Carriage Inn. The manager looked at me and Caitlin and concluded I was a john, needing a room. Neither the first nor last time people thought I was buying! Only my pastor’s business card cleared that up. 

Diane got her the next morning and took her to Alternatives. Still high, she kept falling asleep; the visit was far from satisfying. But, with a sliver of faith in Jesus, she agreed she would like her son to be adopted by a Christian family. We found a Christian agency with adoptive parents who would gladly welcome a crack-baby.

Setting up a meeting with the caseworker was a nightmare. Caitlin was hard to find. I tracked her through a friend, prowling her hangouts, asking after her. The thought of her son in her crack-filled body broke my heart. 

One day, I heard she was in Room 32 in another motel, a drug-dealer’s room. I knocked on the door. Caitlin stepped out, her left hand open, cradling five rocks of crack cocaine. She looked at me, frustrated, and said, “I just need some relief.” She had been trying to stay clean for the sake of her son. She warned me away from the room, away from her dealer who was also the baby’s father. 

We set up a meeting with the caseworker. Diane waited with her while I corralled Caitlin a few blocks away and walked over. She threw a temper tantrum—throwing things, screaming, stamping her feet. Like a five-year-old! The talk with the caseworker also went nowhere. 

I lost track of her, then got news—in jail, the baby born there. He too went to the state. When I saw her, she pulled out her screen-shattered phone and showed me a picture. Cute little guy. Like many, she dreamed of getting her life together, getting him back, raising him. She even asked if Diane and I would take him until she was healthy. None of that was doable. 

From there, she floated—in and out. I would see her, hug her, pray with her. But for the last year, she had disappeared. 

Now, she is dead, likely executed by a drug-dealer. She was pregnant, both she and baby gone. Heart-breaking, stomach-rending news. 

Hers is no success story, no valiant young woman rising above addiction and prostitution to marry and raise her kids. Just another troubled young woman caught in a destructive life, surfing the edge of violence and addiction one time too many, forever lost to this world. On Colfax, failures outnumber successes.

I arrive at my daughter Daviah’s apartment. Diane is there, helping out with little Link. I whisper the news to her, then engage with my family. Our oldest—Darrah—is there with her husband and five children, including our other new grandson, just weeks old. I have a picture of Darrah and Daviah each holding their beautiful little boys, boys from a long line of loving families who love Jesus and treasure children.  Link and Haddon have every chance of living long, godly, productive lives. 

The contrast with Caitlin is harsh, her background a nightmare.  The pain we see on Colfax so often passes from generation to generation. I think of her four children and pray they landed where they have a chance. 

I try to stay in the joy of the moment, but grief and sadness grip me. I loved Caitlin. My five daughters are the ages of the young prostitutes, a fact that makes my love more fierce. 

I also really liked Caitlin, in the way you like a feisty five-year-old, constantly in trouble, filled with energy, saying outrageous things. I would watch her, shake my head and laugh.

Her death is unsurprising, given the road she careened down, a road where few find an exit. I entrust her to Jesus, but I miss her. 

A few of us went to pray at the spot she was killed. Her blood seemed to cry out from the pavement; despair and evil hung in the air. We prayed light into that darkness. 

Stories like Caitlin’s strip our work to its barest form. If you come here to fix people, you will not last. We see change, yes, but too many stories are like hers. We can only do this work if we believe in the eternal value of simply showing up and loving people, trusting God for results, recognizing that most fruit will wait till eternity.

I tell you Caitlin’s story because I want you to understand the pain of this world and the aching need for the love of Jesus. 

But I also tell you her story because I want to honor Caitlin’s life. Created in God’s image, she lived, loved, bore children and—like most of us—tried her best. Over-looked, ignored, even despised by this world, she mattered to God and should matter to us. I honor the life of my friend Caitlin. 

Caitlin, may you rest in peace, safe in the arms of Jesus. 

PS: Just a quick update on our life and ministry. I moved back into the motel a couple of weeks ago and we have started knocking on motel doors again. Diane has some lung issues so she is engaging a bit more slowly. It is great to be back with our friends!